Book Reviews

This is a list of books that have made an impact on the way I think about business and customer focus concepts. I use these books as a reference source for business discussions, blog posts, and my general self-actualization learnings.

I provide this list for you to be able to see a quick summary of the contents and to understand why its made an impact on my life. In full disclosure, the buy links to Amazon do give me a referral credit. One technique that I often use before purchasing a book is to use my local library first. If the book is worth keeping for reference and additional reading then I will purchase a copy for my library.

The BookBrief Review
Buy
Good To Great by Jim CollinsKey Concept
Good To Great aims to answer this fundamental question: “Can a good company become a great company and, if so, how? “

Summary
The book analyzes companies that went from good results to great results and sustained great results for at least 15 years. The basis of the rating was two-fold: 1) Comparison aginst industry peers that didn't achieve the same level of results and 2) Comparison againt a set of companies that established great results but could not sustain them.

From this Collins and his team of research analysts developed a framework that companies can follow to move in a journey from good to great. The transformation is broken into stages of disciplined people, disciplined thought, and then disciplined actions.


Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée MauborgneKey Concept
Blue Ocean Strategy provides a framework for companies and startups to focus on uncontested market spaces (blue oceans) instead of highly competitive markets (red oceans).

Summary
The blue ocean framework centers on a view of strategy called value innovation. The authors define value innovation as an area found in the intersection of lowering cost structure and increasing value proposition to buyers.

What's differentiates the blue ocean strategy from traditional strategy books is that the authors show how cost savings are made by eliminitating and reducing the factors of competition common to the industry. The value proposition is increased by offereing elements the industry has never offered. Essentially, the blue ocean are products and services that you can offer where direct competition doesn't exist.

Blue Ocean Strategy doesn't tell readers they should abandon their existing business lines. With the passage of time, a new blue ocean will become a red ocean of competition. What Blue Ocean Strategy does show is a framework for creating a new strategy within your industry and your organization that allows it to increase its value proposition to customers.

How the Mighty Fall by Jim CollinsKey Concept
How the Mighty Fall aims to answer this fundamental question: “How do companies that were once great great fall from their greatness?“

Summary
The book shows how companies that have fallen from greatness tend to follow the same path. Jim Collins shows the path in 5 stages of decline:
1. Hubris born of success - Arrogance and assumption of success based on past accomplishments.
2. Undisciplined pursuit of more - Trying to grow in areas that are not part of the core mission and not part of your core competencies.
3. Denial of risk and peril - Choosing which data to read and not accepting that corrections must be made.
4. Grasping for Salvation - Looking for a radical change in the form of leadership and methods of business.
5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death - Financial pressures mount and the company either sells or ceases to exist.

Poke the Box by Seth GodinKey Concept
Start something. Leap forward. Don't wait for someone else to tell you to start. Do it on your own initiative.

Summary
Poke the Box by Seth Godin is a quick and easy read. While some may confuse it with a motivational type book, Godin’s points are a bit deeper. The two word summary is

Start Something.

Godin says “I’m merely encouraging you to start. Often. Forever. Be the one who starts things.”
Starting things is like poking the box to see what will happen.The manifesto is a call for people to shed excuses, fear, and procrastination and to pursue their ideas. That’s certainly not a new principle. But Godin states his ideas in a clear, concise, and easy to understand format that worth your time to read.

He gives examples of individuals and organizations to backup his statements that people need to push forward with their ideas. One such example was the first Starbucks didn’t sell coffee and wasn’t the company we have come to know today. It sold coffee beans. But Jerry Baldwin’s idea to get started led to the suggestions from Howard Schultz to offer traditional espresso beverages. Godin’s point is that “Poking doesn’t mean right. It means action”.

This leads to the argument that one of the top reasons that people don’t initiate work is fear of failure. People and organizations let the fear of failure paralyze them because failure is viewed as a negative event. Again, not a new idea, but tolerating failures because we can learn from them, because it makes us better, or because we can adjust and move forward is usually just given lip service in our society.

Godin goes deeper into the idea of initiating work by touching on cultural norms of conformity. From schools, to churches, to corporate america, we are trained, encouraged, and rewarded for staying within set boundaries. I could directly relate to this concept and previously wrote about it in a post entitled are you crazy enough to create change?

I recommend this book for your library. It’s a simple concept, yet can be so difficult to master. If you are a manager of people, encourage them to poke the box. If you are an team member then start your ideas. Godin says “soon is not as good as now.” Go!